If there’s any one thing that sets the designs of Ryan Laukat apart, it’s the fact that nothing ever really “goes to hell.” Even when you’re fighting world-crushing titans in The Ancient World, they never quite get around to crushing the world. There are no Nazis to pilfer your 1930s loot or kidnap your significant other in Artifacts, Inc. Even warfare in Eight-Minute Empire represents minor setbacks rather than crushing routs. By and large, Laukat’s games are set in a bizzaro universe where optimism and progress rule the day.
Now, that might sound dull. I couldn’t blame you if it did. Because, sure, it’s conflict that drives our games, and a game without conflict hardly feels like a game at all. Which is why it’s such a relief that Laukat’s designs are brimming with conflict — it’s just that it’s the sort where nobody ever gets seriously hurt, where you’re racing to be the most optimistic and most industrious, where the goal is to have the most good things happen to you rather than avoiding the bad. It’s childlike, almost, if that didn’t feel like an underhanded insult. Innocent. Pure.
Above and Below might be the greatest exemplar of Laukat’s spirit of optimism thus far.